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Armley Park, crime and trees – four things we learned at Armley Forum

Words: John Baron

Armley residents attended the first Armley Forum meeting in more than a year last night as the regular community meeting was held exclusively online for the first time.

Around 30 people attended the virtual event, which saw a number of local issues discussed with council officers, police and local councillors.

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Topics discussed included:

1. Crime and drug dealing

Problems with drug dealing in the car park at Gotts Park were raised, with reports of dealing in broad daylight and at all hours of the day.

Neighbourhood Policing Team (NPT) Inspector Phil Gill encouraged people to submit any reports of dealing directly to the NPT team at innerwest@westyorkshire.pnn.police.uk.

Concerns were also expressed about irresponsible parking outside Armley schools, both as part of the early morning drop offs and at collection time. Christ Church Primary was particularly singled out as an issue. Inspector Gill encouraged people to report any problems to the Neighbourhood Policing Team.

He also told the meeting that since the start of April there had been eight burglaries in the Armley area, particularly sheds, with two businesses targeted.

There had been eight thefts from motor vehicles, including thefts of catalytic converters, but Insp Gill hopes incidents will decrease following a week-long police operation on the issue.

There has also been an increase in patrols around Armley Town Street to deter returning street drinkers, following lockdown.

2. Armley Park: New playground ‘is coming’

Initial proposals for the new Armley Park playground.

There has been a positive response to a public consultation into the delayed new playground planned for Armley Park, the meeting heard.

Council proposals – first reported here – include moving the playground, which is currently near the entrance to the park, to above the existing football pitches to the north of the park. The playground would have views over the Kirkstall Valley.

Leeds Parks’ Kieron O’Hara said feedback over the new positioning was universally positive from respondents, who had also come forward with suggestions for equipment.

The first phase of the project will go out to tender in the next fortnight, and it will take a further six weeks to appoint a contractor to carry out the work. Mr O’Hara said:

“I apologise the process is slow and not as quick as I would have liked it to be.”

The council has been working with the Friends of Armley and Gotts Park group to replace the existing run-down playground.

3. Tree planting in Armley Park – other sites identified

armley park tree planting
Trees had been mapped out into squares by council workmen. Photo: Cat Hyde

Plans to plant more than 6,000 trees in Armley Park are officially on hold pending further consultation.

Last year WLD reported opposition from the Friends of Armley and Gotts Park group, who were concerned over proposals to plant more than 6,000 trees in Armley Park.

The Friends criticised a lack of meaningful consultation. They also said the volume of trees would create a ‘forest’ in Armley Park and “significantly” reduce the recreational areas and green open spaces, threatening popular annual community events like the annual dog show and Futsala for young footballers.

Forum chair Jim McKenna* said Armley’s councillors had drawn up a list of alternative planting sites to the park, which would mean a reduction in the number of trees planted.

Cat Hyde, from the Friends, last night appealed for all park users to take photographs and document park usage ahead of any future consultation with the council. “The park is so well used,” she added. The Friends group can be found here.

4. Residents urged to join Armley Trees Group

Fiona Blair, from the Armley Trees group, updated the forum on the campaign to restrict the removal of vegetation on rail embankments in Armley.

Network Rail have agreed to review the work they had planned for the lower slopes of the railway cutting following concerns raised about the extent of the work. Fiona said the group wanted to see a sustainable plan developed, including re-planting in an important inner city wildlife corridor.

She said the group had also been organising community litter picks and other activities and encouraged more residents on the Aviary estate t get involved. More details on the Armley Trees blog.

Armley Forum is run by Leeds City Council’s Inner West Community Committee.

Jim McKenna is standing for election at the Armley Ward at the 6 May elections. The full list of candidates is: Richard Chaves-Sanderson – Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition; Tamas Kovacs – Conservative Party; Andrew Alexander Martin – Social Democratic Party; Jim McKenna – Labour Party; Mark Terence Rollinson – Green Party; Dan Walker – Liberal Democrats. Election statements from candidates can be found here.

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